This is my fourth diary in a series, about the serious issues I've been having for eight long years attempting to be a legal person since the PATRIOT Act was amended in 2006 to make your Social Security card - NOT your number, to which IRS cares not at all what name is attached - T•H•E Most Important Piece of Identification a citizen can own.
My newly Republican state legislature passed Voter-ID laws last year that take full effect in 2016, but which will be put to the confrontational test in this year's elections as another aspect of the voter suppression package allows for "challengers" to stand guard at any precinct's polling place to demand any voter they don't like the looks of (i.e., looks possibly Democratic) produce currently valid ID. If the voter doesn't have it on them, they can only vote provisionally. And provisional ballots are often not counted at all. "Challengers" are nothing new, but now they aren't restricted to challenging voters in their own precinct. They can do it anywhere they like, and we expect a constant, belligerent supply of them in these possibly Democratic environs.
Because our DKos Asheville group is going forward with voter registration efforts right through the cut-off date in October, and we've already enjoyed the very useful information and advice we got at our last meet-up from the League of Women Voters, I figured my issues with SSA might provide some good hands-on experience when we encounter people who may also have issues. I figure at least a million North Carolinians will have issues, they just don't know about it yet. My previous diaries on the subject are below, if you're interested...
Basic rundown is that my SS card/account carries a familiar nickname I've always gone by, but is not my 'given' name. Got my card/account when I was 15 using school records, which included the familiar name as well as my 'given' names. Since an SS card has never been a legal form of ID, the only time I made a change was when I got married. Added husband's surname.
My driver's license expired some years ago, but since I have no car I didn't bother getting it renewed. I do own property here in No'Cackalackie, we did adopt a daughter here, and I have been duly registered to vote here for 22 years - the entire time we've lived here. Using my 'given' first name (which appears as my middle name on the SS card/account), my maiden name as middle name/initial, and my husband's surname. Which is also on the SS card.
What the PATRIOT Act's amendment did was require that all forms of identification must match the names on the SS card exactly. Which mine do not. So I began the sojourn described in the links above. A couple of months ago after being frustrated yet again by both the DMV and SSA, I appealed to Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) and my congresscritter Mark Meadows (R-NC-11). Both assigned a staffer to help me out, we went back and forth a few times, release forms were duly signed and sent. Because my husband's credit union refused to take my March SS check in deposit (after taking them for the past 9 months no problem) unless I have a current photo-ID that I can't get unless SSA will correct the name, things suddenly became urgent. It's not a lot of money, but it is needed.
Hagan's staffer made a couple of contacts to SSA on my behalf, Meadows' staffer jumped into the fray last week. An appointment was made for this afternoon for me at SSA, so I got a ride and took my burgeoning file full of school records, birth certificate, FS-240, affidavit from the Commander, US Naval Forces Philippines, marriage license, insurance card, old driver's license, SS card, the SS check I can't deposit, the deed to our property, our daughter's adoption papers, letters to the regional director of SSA and from the Senator and Congressman, even my old dental x-rays, ready to try yet again. And this time it worked. The SSA agent agreed to correct the name even though I didn't have any "new" forms of ID he'd previously demanded and which I cannot obtain because of the name mismatch. You'd think those would have been plenty.
So really, nothing had changed except political pressure was applied. And that worked. I will receive my new card in a couple of weeks, have a letter confirming the correction in hand, and the 'flag' in the central computer will (I was told) be lifted as of tomorrow morning. Success! Husband's off Friday, so we'll go to the DMV in the morning for that state photo-ID (will worry about driver's license later, when I've a car to take the test in) I must have in order to get my name on the credit union account and direct deposit, which SSA insists upon. Fine with me, I just couldn't be on the account when we moved our money from Bank of America awhile back in protest, due to the name mismatch. Then we'll do lunch.
What I absolutely DO NOT expect is that the credit union will accept my March check in deposit even when I do have valid photo-ID and my name's on the account. Because that check is to my 'old' self and not my new self. Even though they've accepted 9 others in that name. What I figure I'll need to do now is send that check back to SSA and have them add the amount to either my next check in my legal name, or the direct deposit if that takes effect quickly enough.
So. What have we learned about how easy or difficult it's going to be for, say, women who never bothered to change their SS card/account names when they got married or divorced, who don't already have a valid NC driver's license or photo-ID, to GET that photo-ID before trying to vote in the 2016 elections? ...I've learned that there are going to be some very, very busy congressional and/or Senatorial staffers in the next couple of years, that's for sure. Because SSA doesn't take kindly to changing or correcting the names on cards/accounts no matter how much identification you've got, and no matter how monumentally stupid it is that they won't.
Because. Because that little dog-eared paper SS card that is not and never has been a valid form of ID is now the most precious form of ID anybody who lives in the US of A can have. Because if it doesn't match everything else exactly, you simply cannot get any other valid form of ID. Next up for little old me? I'm getting a passport...